“Unity Through Sport”: Organizing the first Canada Games in Québec in 1967

By Normand Laplante

Minus 33 degrees Celsius (wind chill: –52)! It was bone-chillingly cold when the competitions started at the first Canada Winter Games, in the city of Québec on February 12, 1967. Three days later, organizers and athletes faced more bad weather: a blizzard that dumped 76 centimetres of snow on the sports venues. Despite the harsh winter conditions, this first national multi-sport event, which brought 1,800 athletes together from across Canada, was a great success. Fifty years on, on the eve of the 26th Canada Games in Winnipeg, those first Games stand as an important milestone in the development of sport in Canada.

In 1962, the Canadian Sports Advisory Council decided to create a large national sporting competition that would bring together amateur athletes from every province and territory. The competition would be held every two years, alternating between winter and summer editions. André Marceau, a member of the newly established National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport, proposed that Québec host the first Canada Winter Games. His proposal was accepted, and in 1963, a group of athletes from Quebec’s capital set up a corporation for those first Games, with Georges Labrecque as president and Marceau as vice-president. Guy Rousseau became chief executive officer for the Games.

In March 1965, the federal and Quebec governments officially announced that the first Canada Winter Games would take place in February 1967. The competition would be one of the events held to celebrate the centennial of Confederation. Organizers of the Games had initially planned on 20 sports, including winter Olympic sports, indoor sports and lesser-known disciplines such as barrel jumping, dog racing and ice canoeing. This list was revised many times in the months that followed because organizers had to consider a number of issues, including logistics. In the autumn of 1966, the corporation announced the 13 sports for the first Games: skiing (downhill and cross-country skiing, and ski jumping), speed skating, figure skating, hockey, curling, basketball, volleyball, badminton, wrestling, synchronized swimming, artistic gymnastics, shooting and table tennis.

A colour photograph of a ski jumper flying above a crowd of spectators.

A ski jumper above a crowd of spectators at the first Canada Winter Games, Québec, 1967 (MIKAN 4743402)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman kneeling and aiming a rifle, surrounded by spent cartridges.

A shooting competition at the first Canada Games, Québec (MIKAN 4743394)

Choosing the athletes for the provincial delegations required an unprecedented level of coordination between provincial governments, national sports associations and the organizers of the Games. The organizing committee of the Games in Québec estimated that 75,000 people participated in preparations for the first Canada Winter Games. These included not only athletes from the 10 provinces and 2 territories, who competed in elimination rounds to determine who would qualify for the teams, but also officials, organizers, coaches, and heads of provincial and national sports associations. One result of this exercise was the creation of many provincial administrative bodies responsible for sport.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, accompanied by provincial premiers Jean Lesage of Quebec, Louis Robichaud of New Brunswick and Alex Campbell of Prince Edward Island, opened the Games on February 11, 1967, in front of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, with the theme of “Unity Through Sport.” During the nine days of competition, 184 medals were awarded. Ontario won the most medals, ahead of teams from British Columbia and Alberta. Teresa McDonnell, winner of three artistic gymnastics events, and Toller Cranston, gold medallist in figure skating and a future bronze medallist at the Winter Olympics, were two of the athletes whose performances stood out at these first Games.

A black-and-white photograph of a podium on which three young women wearing medals are standing. A man is shaking hands with the gold medallist.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, congratulates Teresa McDonnell and her fellow medallists, Jennifer Diachun and Marie St-Jean, after a women’s gymnastics competition at the first Canada Winter Games in Québec, photographed by H. Leclair (MIKAN 4743377)

The success of the first Games encouraged the national sports organizations and the federal government to hold the first Canada Summer Games in Halifax-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in 1969. In later years, several provinces would launch their own provincial winter and summer games, modelled on the Canada Games.

Colour photograph of a man in a red jacket carrying the Canadian flag while athletes enter the stadium.

Harry Jerome carries the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of the first Canada Summer Games in Halifax-Dartmouth (MIKAN 4743415)

To learn more about the Canada Games and the athletes who participated in them, please consult the following sources at Library and Archives Canada:

Were you there? Do you have a story to tell?


Normand Laplante is a senior archivist in the Society and Culture Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

125 years ago today: the invention of basketball and the Canadian participants in the first ever basketball game

By Normand Laplante

December 21, 2016 marks the 125th anniversary of the invention of basketball by Canadian James Naismith and of the first game ever played. In the fall of 1891, Naismith was studying to become a YMCA physical education instructor at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was given the task of finding a suitable indoor recreational sport for a physical education class for men aspiring to become executive YMCA secretaries. This group of “incorrigibles” had shown little interest in undertaking traditional calisthenics and gymnastics exercises and their reluctance had led the two previous physical instructors assigned to the group to quit. Naismith first attempted to have the class play modified indoor versions of football, soccer and even the Canadian game of lacrosse. However, these initiatives proved unsuccessful, largely due to the physical restraints imposed by a small gymnasium. Naismith then came up with the idea of a new sport, based on a children’s game Duck on the rock, where two teams would battle each other to throw a ball into the opposing team’s basket to score points. On December 21, 1891, Naismith presented his 13 rules for the new game to the class and separated the group into two teams of nine players. While the final score of the game was only 1-0, the new sport proved to be a big hit with the players.

A black-and-white photograph with a list of all the players pictured, as well as those missing from the photograph who were part of the first team.

Members of the world’s first basketball team, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

The participants in the first game included four Canadians who, like Naismith, were studying at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield: Lyman W. Archibald, Finlay G. MacDonald and John George Thompson, from Nova Scotia, and Thomas Duncan Patton, from Montreal. As graduate trainees of the Institute returning to their new duties in Canada, some members of the “First Team” were
instrumental in spreading the new sport through the YMCA network in different regions of Canada.

Detail from a black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

Lyman W. Archibald, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

Originally from Truro, Nova Scotia, Lyman W. Archibald (1868-1947) became general secretary and physical director of the St. Stephen, New Brunswick, YMCA in 1892 and organized one of the first basketball games played in Canada in the fall of 1892 in this town on the Canada-US border. In 1893, Archibald moved on to Hamilton, Ontario where, as a YMCA physical instructor, he brought the sport to that region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

John G. Thompson, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

After graduating from the YMCA Training Institute in 1895, John G. Thompson (1859-1933), from Merigomish, Nova Scotia, returned to his home province and, in 1895, was appointed physical education director at the new YMCA building in New Glasgow, where he introduced basketball to the Pictou County region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

T. Duncan Patton, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

T. Duncan Patton (1865-1944), originally from Montreal, was one of the two team captains selected by Naismith for the first game. He is said to have introduced the sport to India as a YMCA missionary in 1894. Later on, as YMCA secretary in Winnipeg in the early 1900s, Patton influenced the early organizers of the game in that city.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the D. Hallie Lowry collection which includes photographs of Naismith and of participants of the first basketball game in Springfield. The National Council of Young Men’s Christian Associations of Canada fonds includes a copy of James Naismith’s 1941 book, Basketball: Its Origins and Development, autographed by some of the members of the first basketball team, including Canadians T. Duncan Patton and Lyman W. Archibald; and Patton’s personal published account of the origins of the sport, Basketball: How and When Introduced, written before 1939. LAC’s collection also has photographs of early basketball teams which provide visual documentation of the development of the sport in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph showing four young men posing around a basketball.

An early photograph of a Canadian basketball team which included Norman Bethune (second from the bottom) with Clark, Lewis and McNeil, members of the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute basketball team, ca 1905 (MIKAN 3192129)

Related Links


Normand Laplante is a senior archivist in the Society and Culture Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The XXI Summer Olympic Games opened July 17, 1976 in Montréal

By Dalton Campbell

A colour photograph depicts two young people standing on a raised platform in a crowded stadium. They each have a hand on a torch which they are holding aloft. Beside them is a large ceremonial cauldron that is lit with a flame.

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremonies of the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Montréal, Quebec was awarded the games in the second round of voting by Olympic delegates in 1970. After the first ballot, Moscow was leading Montréal 28 votes to 25, resulting in third-place Los Angeles being automatically eliminated. The Montréal bid received most of the Los Angeles support and was selected as host city.

A colour photograph depicts the inside of Olympic Stadium, Montréal. The athletes of the competing nations assemble on the infield of the stadium. The flags of the competing nations hang from the rafters.

The delegations of participating countries gather during the opening ceremonies for the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Construction of the Olympic facilities was slow due to complicated architectural designs, the rapid inflation rate and governments reluctant to commit to funding. Exceptionally cold weather halted construction in January 1976. When the games started, 19 of the 21 facilities were finished; however the Olympic Stadium, the centrepiece, was not completed when the games began.

Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old gymnast from Romania, was perhaps the biggest star of the Montréal games. In the opening days of the Olympics, she earned an unprecedented perfect 10.00 for her routine on the uneven bars. However, as the score board was equipped with only three digits, the judges—in uncharted territory—displayed scores of “1.00.”

A colour photograph depicts a young woman standing on the podium waving to the crowd. She is wearing a white track suit with “Romania” written on it. Behind her on the floor are two other young women.

Romania’s Nadia Comaneci (centre) waves to the crowd after her gold medal win in the uneven bars during the gymnastics competition at the XXI Summer Olympic Games. She went on to earn five medals, including three gold. The silver medal is awarded to Teodora Ungureanu of Romania (left) and the bronze to Márta Egervári of Hungary (right). Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Apparently at a meeting before the 1976 Olympics, there had been a discussion to use score clocks with four digits. The decision was to use three-digit clocks because a perfect ten was impossible.

Michel Vaillancourt, riding his horse Branch County, was the first Canadian to earn an individual equestrian medal at the Olympics. Born northeast of Montréal, he was performing in front of his hometown crowd when he won a silver medal in individual show jumping.

Colour photograph of a man riding a horse as they complete a jump over a fence in the equestrian competition. The audience is seated in the background.

Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt rides Branch County in an equestrian event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

On the last day of the games, the high jump competition was held in the rain. The world record holder, Dwight Stones of the United States, had been favoured to win. After an interview in which he appeared to criticize the facilities and the hosts, he was booed by the crowd. Stones, who disliked jumping in wet conditions, struck the bar and was eliminated. The next athlete, Canada’s Greg Joy, cleared the bar, bringing the crowd of almost 70,000 to their feet in a standing ovation. Joy would finish with the silver medal, ceding the gold to Jacek Wszola of Poland.

Colour photograph of a man competing in the high jump event. The photo depicts him in the air approaching the bar. Behind the mat are photographers. The crowd is seated in the background.

Canada’s Greg Joy competes in the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Although no Canadian earned a gold medal at the 1976 games, Greg Joy was cheered and honoured as if he had. He was named flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. Later that year he received the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year, beating out jockey Sandy Hawley and hockey superstar Guy Lafleur. For many years afterwards, his jump and celebration were replayed nightly across the county; it was the second-last clip in the O Canada video shown on CBC television immediately before the network signed off for the night.

Colour photograph of a man, dressed in shorts and sleeveless t-shirt, standing with his arms raised in the air. In the background are people dressed in rain gear.

Greg Joy after winning the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

The closing ceremonies were held on August 1, 1976. Canada finished the games with five silver and six bronze medals—more than double the number of medals won by Canada in 1968 or 1972.

Additional Resources


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

 

Jackie Robinson and the baseball colour barrier

By Dalton Campbell

In April 1946, Jackie Robinson took the field with the Montreal Royals baseball team, which played in the International League. He was the first black man signed to a Major League Baseball team in the twentieth century. After signing a contract in October 1945 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was assigned by Dodgers’ management to the Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate, in order to gain experience. They thought that Montreal would be a less hostile city for him to learn to deal with media scrutiny and fan attention and to endure on-field discrimination and physical intimidation.

Black-and-white photograph of a baseball player running the bases. His foot is on third base and he is turning and heading to home plate. In the background are other players, and in the distance the outfield fence and trees.

Jackie Robinson, in a Montreal Royals’ uniform, circles third base and heads for home during spring training. April 20, 1946 (MIKAN 3574533)

In the first game of the season, he more than held his own. He had four hits, three runs, and a home run. A famous photograph captures Royals’ teammate George “Shotgun” Shuba shaking Robinson’s hand as he crossed home plate after his home run. This is believed to be the first photograph of a white man congratulating a black man on a baseball diamond. Continue reading

The New Westminster Salmonbellies, Vancouver Lacrosse Club and professional lacrosse in the early 1900s

In 1909, the New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Vancouver Lacrosse Club (VLC) started playing in the two-team professional British Columbia Lacrosse Association (BCLA).

A trading card with a colour print of a man wearing a plain green sweater with a red collar. It is captioned: “Bones Allen, Vancouver Team.”

Angus “Bones” Allen, midfielder/forward, played six seasons with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club. He is one of the few players to have won the Stanley Cup and the Minto Cup. (MIKAN 2963049)

Continue reading

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Shot Stone: Curling in Canada”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Shot Stone: Curling in Canada.”

Curling could be considered the unofficial national sport of Canada. In this episode, we will explore the game’s evolution, its development as an organized sport, and the creations of a Canadian curling culture. We will also let you know about the extensive collection of materials at Library and Archives Canada related to the history and the development of curling in Canada. Our guest for this episode is Warren Hansen. Warren is not only a curling historian and expert, but a Canadian men’s curling champion. He and his Alberta team, skipped by Hector Gervais, won the 1974 Brier. Recently retired, Warren had worked for the Canadian Curling Association since 1974.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@canada.ca.

Hockey Marching as to War – the 228th Battalion

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) currently has an exhibition at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, which runs until January 22, 2016. Hockey Marching as to War engages viewers in the many stories of hockey players’ involvement in Canada’s First World War effort—from the men who enlisted and served overseas to the women who took up sticks at home.

A particularly fascinating story is the emergence of highly successful military hockey teams. In 1916, Winnipeg’s 61st Battalion won the prestigious Allan Cup—the senior amateur hockey championship—and Montreal’s 87th Battalion was good enough to play an exhibition game against Montreal professionals, including players from the Canadiens.

No military team was more famous than the 228th Battalion, whose history is there for all to see in LAC’s rich collection of government records. Known as the Northern Fusiliers, the 228th mustered in North Bay, Ontario, under the command of Lt.-Col. Archie Earchman, and was so successful recruiting talented hockey players that in the fall of 1916 it was invited to join the National Hockey Association (NHA), the main professional league and forerunner of the National Hockey League.

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing. He is wearing a uniform, a cap and a Sam Browne belt, and holding a baton.

Lieutenant Colonel Earchman, D.S.O., Toronto, Ontario, undated (MIKAN 3215233)

Continue reading

James Naismith: his early formative years in Canada leading to the invention of basketball

The origins of popular sports such as baseball, football and hockey are often difficult to pinpoint; often a number of individuals and places claim to be the inventor or the birthplace of a sport. However, there is no dispute on who invented the sport of basketball: Canadian Dr. James Naismith. Born in the Ottawa valley town of Almonte, province of Canada on November 6, 1861, James Naismith was orphaned at a very young age and was raised along with his older sister Annie and younger brother Robbie by his uncle and aunt.

A popular childhood game in Naismith’s youth was “duck on the rock.” A stone called “the duck” was placed on a larger stone or a tree stump. The objective of the game was for players to knock the duck stone off its base, run to retrieve their own stone and return to the original throwing location. A participant would play the role of the “guard” whose role was to pick up the duck rock if it had been knocked off, place it back on its base, and race to tag one of the throwers before the latter returned to his starting point. While each player had his or her throwing technique, Naismith noticed that the most successful players lobbed their stone with aim and accuracy which would allow them more time to pick up their stone. The memory of this childhood game would influence his creation of the game of basketball.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men standing in a field watching a game of duck on the rock.

A game of duck on a rock, Alberta, September 1906 (MIKAN 3386054)

Naismith struggled with his studies and decided to quit during his second year at Almonte High School at the age of 15. He preferred to work on the family farm in the summer and the logging camps in the winter. The 1881 Canadian census lists his occupation at the age of 19 as a farmer.

Later that year, Naismith decided to go back to high school and graduated in 1883 at the age of 21. He moved to Montréal and pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Honours and Philosophy and Hebrew at McGill University. Late 19th-century Montréal was an important centre for the early development of organized sports in Canada and North America. The first official rules for popular sports such as lacrosse and hockey were elaborated during that period. Naismith—blessed with natural athletic abilities—was drawn to many sports played at the university including gymnastics, rugby football and lacrosse. He graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education in 1888. These interests led him to be named the first director of physical training at McGill in the fall of 1889.

A black-and-white photograph of two rugby football players crouching, the man on the left is holding the ball, waiting to throw it to the other man behind him.

James Naismith (on the left) playing rugby football (MIKAN 3652828)

A black-and-white photograph of the McGill University rugby football team. They are wearing striped knee socks and white uniforms adorned with a crest.

James Naismith (far left, sitting down) part of the McGill rugby football team (MIKAN 3650079).

In September 1890, Naismith moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S. to attend the International YMCA Training School. Tasked with creating a new indoor sport, he invented the game of basketball. The first game was played in the YMCA gymnasium in Springfield in December 1891. Basketball has since become of one of the most popular sports in the world.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men sitting on a staircase. On each side are the baskets that were first used in the sport.

The world’s first basketball team. Dr. James Naismith is on the right in the center row (MIKAN 3652826)

For more photos documenting Naismith’s professional and personal activities, consult the D. Hallie Lowry collection held by Library and Archives Canada.

Shaping our national winter sport: hockey innovations

The first artificial ice arenas in Canada

In 1911, Frank and Lester Patrick, hockey players and entrepreneurs, built the first two artificial ice rinks in Canada—the Denman Arena in Vancouver, and the Victoria Arena in Victoria. The Denman Arena was the largest arena in Canada at the time with a seating capacity of 10,500. The rinks were constructed to be the main rinks for the new Pacific Coast Hockey Association games, created by the Patrick brothers to bring professional hockey to western Canada and to compete with the National Hockey Association (predecessor to the National Hockey League).

A colour reproduction showing a colourized photograph of a young man wearing a red-and-white sweater with a red “R” emblazoned in the middle of his chest.

Hockey card for Frank Patrick, circa 1910–1912 (MIKAN 2962979)

According to Library and Archives Canada’s database Canadian Patents, 1869-1919, Frank Patrick applied to the Canadian Patent Branch to patent the refrigeration system for their rinks in 1913. The patent seems to have been granted in June 1914, although the application does have “cancelled” stamped on it.

A black-and-white reproduction of a sketch showing the cooling mechanism for a hockey rink.

Ice rink patent application (Patent number 156325)

Recognized as the leaders in the development of artificial ice hockey rinks in Canada, Frank and Lester Patrick are also credited for implementing many rules of hockey that are instrumental to how the game is played today.

For more information on the opening of the Denman Arena and the creation of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, please see our virtual exhibition, Backcheck: a Hockey Retrospective.

The creation and evolution of the hockey net

The first hockey goals consisted of two rocks, and later posts, which were placed at each end of the rink. The goal posts were first eight feet apart, then reduced to the 6-foot width still used today.

A black-and-white photograph showing hockey players during a game on an outdoor hockey rink

Hockey match at McGill University (MIKAN 3332330)

A typewritten page showing the rules of hockey.

Ontario Hockey Association rules as found in Hockey: Canada’s Royal Winter Game.

In the 1890s, a number of hockey leagues started to experiment with the use of fishing nets attached to the posts to avoid arguments over goals. In 1899, the newly-created Canadian Amateur Hockey League officially adopted the use of hockey nets during their games. The goal consisted of a net attached to a rope connecting the top of each goal post.

A black-and-white reproduction of a handwritten notebook titled “Intermediate Championship”

Minutes of the annual meeting of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League, December 9, 1899 (MIKAN 100095 or on the Héritage website, image 95).

In 1911, Percy LeSueur, one of the best and most innovative goaltenders at the time, submitted a patent application to improve the hockey net. According to his application, the objective of his patent claim was to “enable much greater accuracy in deciding scores to be maintained.” LeSueur’s proposed hockey net improved on the existing goal type where the supporting top bar was set back a number of inches from the goal line and allowed a shot from close range and at an upward angle to go over the bar, even if it crossed the goal line. The patent was granted to Le Sueur in 1912 and the concept behind his patent remains the foundation for the hockey goal still used today.

A black-and-white photograph with medallions portraits of 12 men centered around a white square.

Group photo of the Ottawa Hockey Club in 1914, which includes Percy LeSueur (top middle) (MIKAN 3386140)

A black-and-white reproduction of a detailed illustration of a goal net with measurements.

Le Sueur’s patent application drawing showing the improved goal net (patent number 139387)

For more information on the Canadian Amateur Hockey League Association, please consult the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association fonds held by Library and Archives Canada.

The goalie mask

In November 1959, the all-time great goaltender, Jacques Plante, would change the hockey world by starting to wear a face mask on a regular basis. Until then, goaltenders did not use protective masks. A few notable exceptions included Elizabeth Graham who used a fencing mask in a hockey game in 1927 and National Hockey League (NHL) goaltender Clint Benedict who used a leather mask in a few games in 1929. Plante of the Montreal Canadiens had experimented since the mid-1950s with different masks in practices and exhibition games to protect himself from pucks and sticks.

A black-and-white photograph of a man leaning on the hockey boards holding a transparent mask in his hands.

Jacques Plante showing off a mask, the “Louch Shield” which he experimented with in practice before 1959 (MIKAN 4814213)

On November 1st, 1959, after suffering a broken nose and cuts to the face during an NHL game against the New York Rangers, he returned from the dressing room with a mask created by fibreglass specialist, Bill Burchmore.

In January 1960, Jacques Plante began wearing a new lighter mask, commonly known as the “pretzel mask,” built by Burchmore and consisting of 540 woven ends of fibreglass yarn.

A black-and-white photograph of a goalie with a mask defending his net. Behind him other players (without helmets) are falling on the ice, reaching for the puck.

Jacques Plante in action wearing a second type of mask on January 17, 1960 (MIKAN 4814204)

A black-and-white photograph of a man taking off a goalie mask.

Jacques Plante lifting his hockey mask (MIKAN 3194972)

Other goaltenders would follow suit and the mask soon became a standard piece of equipment for a goaltender. Jacques Plante would continue improving goalie masks and created his own mask-making business towards the end of his hockey playing career.

For more information on Jacques Plante and his innovations, consult the Jacques and Caroline Raymonde Plante fonds held at Library and Archives Canada.